Many in the industry are talking about the offering of Jaguar and Land Rover in similar terms to the July 2005 sale of MG Rover. They are missing some important points. MG Rover was a disposal of an ailing company with a badly managed product portfolio and crumbling assets, both in facilities and management and workforce motivation.
Jaguar and Land Rover could not be more different – a business unit that has had billions of dollars of parent Ford’s resources spent on it, to build a great range of cars and trucks as well as to fund Jaguar’s high development, plant rationalisation and legacy costs.
In spite of what some market-makers and so-called expert analysts have said, private equity finance is not the ideal solution. If a company as expert as Cerberus has had significant problems simply understanding Chrysler, the complexity, history and variegated product range of Jaguar and Land Rover would baffle the mooted venture capital buyers as well as alienating the unions – not a good idea in the UK where some labour leaders seem to be casting around for an opportunity to flex their sagging muscles. The supplier base of the two brands still has a considerable number of UK-based companies and these would not be that easy to re-source from low-cost regions or suppliers. Better to maintain that loyal supply chain and capitalise on the ‘Britishness’ of the vehicles. For once patriotism need not be the last resort.
With the conglomeration of global brands, many having a broad segment spread that includes SUVs and luxury brands, there might appear to be few carmakers that need Jaguar, so one needs to think a little further afield, and the rising fortunes of India’s car industry beckon strongly. Tata looks to be the obvious choice – the company has spoken often of wanting a European technical centre, and possibly a European design centre as well. And the high level of technical intelligence ‘capital’ in India is well known too. However, the really good ’fit’ is much closer at hand – PSA is lacking credible models in all the segments that Jaguar and Land Rover excels in, an SUV range and the luxury cars that the French have failed at for decades. The Gallic giant has top-class diesel and gasoline engine technology and manufacturing bases, under-used plants and firm footholds in low-cost countries for both labour and suppliers. Would a sale to this carmaker cement Anglo-Franco relations or cause a further cross-Channel rift?